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Managing Digital Assets

(September 2009) posted on Wed Sep 23, 2009

Organizing and archiving digital images and other assets.

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By Stephen Beals

• Data should not be separated from the files but should be strongly attached to files.
• Exchanging data should be as easy as exchanging files.
• Data should travel with the files.
• Data should understand namespaces and should allow encryption and references.
• Viewing data should not require direct access.
• Data should be in a standard format and work with standard tools.
• “Got the file” means “got the data.”
• Data should be in a database, and it should be flexible.
• Systems should add fields in seconds, not weeks; adoption should take days not years.
• Each asset may have different data.
• Data should apply to all file types.
• Systems should support Unicode.
• You should not be hostage to a vendor; changing vendors should be like changing tires.
• Data should be future proof.
• Separating metadata from the assets doesn’t just lose the data as you work on it.
• DAM should not force a replacement of all systems.
• DAM should be scalable.
• Enterprise should mean enterprise—not “big box.”
• DAM should work with the creative workflow.

Vendor part of the equation
For their part, manufacturers and vendors have been modifying their products to better address current market needs. What were once relatively modest asset-management
packages have evolved into more robust modular suites of products that can handle new functions.

DAM for print providers is no longer just about being able to find the right photo to place in a particular job. Instead, it’s about automating the entire workflow, repurposing data, and building new digital assets on the fly. It”s also about being able to automatically track and move all of your files, pictures, text, pdf, native files, office files, and more—and in such a way that they can be linked together instantly for a variety of purposes.

Many vendors have recently released new versions of their products to better address some of these challenges; here’s just a sampling (see, “Sourcing DAM,” at left, for a more comprehensive list of companies in this space):

• Xinet has released Asset Browser, a plug-in for InDesign in its Xinet WebNative Suite, as well as WebNative ID and Annotator ID for Adobe Creative Suite 4. In addition, the company reports that a major announcement will be coming later this year.
• Meta Communications has released an entry-level version of its DAM product that sells for less than $2000.
• Canto has launched Canto Single User, a personal version of its Cumulus digital asset-management program.
• Extensis’ Server version of Portfolio has undergone a fairly significant upgrade to version 9.
• SeeFile is scheduled to release version 4.7 just before this article appears in print.
• Wave has released MediaBank v3.5.
• North Plains has released a new version of TeleScope Video Manager and its new product, TeleScope Orchestration.
• Chuckwalla has introduced Chuckwalla v6–Standard Edition, Chuckwalla v6–Modular Edition, and a Developer Edition.
• Widen has released Version 5.3, which offers improvements to the Dynamic Media Building tool for brand-controlled ad and brochure creation and document collaboration using Adobe PDF Shared Review as well as a new browser-based user interface and integration direct to the desktop.

It’s probably fair to say that various digital asset-management companies that once focused on the graphic-arts marketplace have turned to generating sales to other markets. They now sometimes view the printing market as a small and not particularly profitable niche. But the positive aspect of this broader market view is an enhancement of the capabilities of systems, and all businesses—including print providers—will stand to benefit from this wider outlook.

Increasing competitive edge
The selection of a vendor for asset management is certainly not a simple task, but it really boils down to determining exactly what you want your system to be able to do for you. These days, systems can do much more than ever before to streamline your business, saving time and money, and increasing your competitive edge.

The first step in the selection process is to decide not to sit still and wait for the solution to come to you. Other folks who will be competing with you are already implementing systems of varying sophistication. The challenge is not what technology you chose, but how well thought out your implementation is and how well it fits your business and your customers.